Siblings in Denial
By CarePatrol of Greater Birmingham
It is common for family caregivers to experience some denial on the part of siblings as to the health and needs of their elderly loved ones. Conversely, siblings who visit less frequently may notice a decline more prominently than the day-to-day caregiver. For some, denial satisfies a subconscious need for the parent to continue to be vital. Others experience denial about the exhaustive work it requires to remain caring for a parent.
Long-distance caregivers may perform bookkeeping or other tasks to support the local, hands-on caregiver. They may also pitch in to pay for respite care that will allow the caregiver much needed rest. But, being distant can also exacerbate the problem of denial as updates may not provide the full picture. And, to make matters worse, the elderly may “perk up” and present differently when being visited by the long distance child, making the warnings of the caregiver seem over-hyped. However, when the visit is over, the steady decline of the parent may once again rear its ugly head as the parent sinks back into their daily reality.
Getting Siblings to Help
We hear stories of distant siblings leaving the parent and caregiver with the belief that things aren’t really so bad. Another type of sibling denial allows the sibling to deny the harsh daily reality of errand running, appointment setting and emergencies for the sibling who is care-giving. While the sibling may allow that the parent is incapacitated, s/he might not acknowledge the toll that caregiving is taking on their sibling who is care-giving. While some distant siblings may not know how to help, others simply find it easy to ignore the needs of the caregiver.
So, how do we engage these siblings in denial? First, look at ourselves. Have we asked directly for help, with specific tasks? If not, our sibling in denial may think nothing is wrong, absent our complaints or requests. Ask for help, not in general, but with specifics like bill paying, or tax preparation.
Siblings Who Refuse to Help
Some siblings may refuse help when you ask. Try again. Suggest that if they can’t or won’t help with the tasks of care-giving then perhaps they could provide financial assistance to allow you to hire help. If they ignore you? That happens all the time. You tried. Now you try again, perhaps with a letter or e-mail stating that if they can't help they can write a check so you can hire help.
If you still get nowhere, then you can go further, depending on what you want to risk. You can hire a family mediator to figure out how to cope with siblings dumping the caregiving on your shoulders. You can get counseling for the same reasons. Or you can just accept the situation and move on.